Author: Kiersten White
Released: January 8 2019
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Goodreads Rating: 3.84 (of 56 ratings)
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Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.
Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.
Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One—she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period.
Disclaimer: I received this ARC courtesy of Simon Pulse through NetGalley. I am grateful for the opportunity to review an ARC for my readers, but this will not influence my final rating. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and based solely on the book.
I imagine the drafting process for this novel included a meeting somewhat like this: “Kiersten. You must now make a choice. For Slayer, will you target A) readers who have only watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer or B) readers who have watched BtVS and read the comics or C) the readers who make up your dedicated fanbase but have not touched any Buffy-based media?” And Kiersten White said, “Why not all of them?”
Slayer accommodates new and old Buffy fans alike, but not without a few bumps in the road. I’m well-versed in all things Buffy seasons one to seven, and White condensed the main facts — why vampires are major icksters, how Buffy got to be the icon she is today, what the heck a slayer is — quite well. I never read the comics, but I got all the important facts as well: Seed of Wonder, no more magic, okay, yes, alright. The issue became less “wait, what does that mean” and more “okay, but can *this* version actually start?” White spends almost 30% of the book explaining who is who, what is what, and why everything is happening. The first third of the book is so heavy on info-dumps I started scrolling forwards, eager for the action to begin. Main character Athena (Nina)’s actual actions feel drowned out by the many times she “pauses” to give information to the reader. Considering I skimmed several of these pages, and still understand the entirety of the book, I believe a lot of this info was unnecessary and just weighed down on the plot.
Once I broke through what I loosely refer to as the “introductory section,” though, I was hooked. Nina’s character arc focuses on understanding her role as slayer: what it means within her family and what it means in relation to Buffy and the many other Chosen Ones. I love that in Slayer, Nine knows about the world of Slayers, that she has seen everything they can do, before she realizes she will be part of that world as well. Not to mention Nina has trained her entire life as a nurse — as a Slayer, she must fight her trained instincts to heal. White brought up several points about decisions and how we make them and … just the scene with Cillian and the decision Nina makes. That scene. If you know, you know. Putting Nina’s two worlds up against each other makes for such an interesting read and exploration of Slayer identity!
There are moments in this book for die-hard Buffy fans. No, do not expect Buffy to walk in and start strutting around. This is Nina’s story. But there are fun parallels to Buffy’s own Slayer journey. Not to mention how amazing the fight scenes were. I swear I was watching a Buffy episode in my mind. White wrote the absolute best fight scenes in this book. They felt so true to BtVS with the moves, the quick thinking, and the inventiveness.
The characters. There are definitely standouts in this book. I liked Nina for her journey and willingness to be herself, even if everyone else (literally, everyone) had already made up their minds on who she should be. A demon comes in later who is the absolute best and so much comedic relief and again: so much BtVS feels. For the most part, Nina and Artemis’ relationship was the strong sibling bond we love to see in our books. Rhys and Cillian were good, I just wish they had more page time! As for other characters, well, let’s just say there is so much duplicity I don’t even know who is who or who to like or what was what. Which, I mean, outside of the Scooby Gang, kinda classic Buffy? I think by book two I will have nailed down my Spikes (evil but you want redeemed) and my Giles’ (okay but also like half the characters are Watchers so it’s hard though!).
I’m awarding this book 3.5 crowns. The beginning was just so hard to get into. I put it down three times at the start because the writing was so dry. Then after that “introductory section” I was flowing forwards with crazy action scenes, witty humour, and so much character enjoyment. Yes, I recommend, but do be aware the beginning takes a moment.
How much do you know about the world of the slayers? Are you ready to dig in deeper and answer the call?